How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in Pennsylvania?
To apply for divorce in Pennsylvania, one or both of the spouses must have resided in the state for the preceding six months. The plaintiff files a complaint with the court, stating the names and addresses of both spouses, and why he or she is seeking a divorce from the defendant. The complaint may also touch upon issues such as alimony, property settlement, child support, and custody. The defendant must get a copy of the complaint, either through certified mail, or personally by the sheriff. The divorce becomes legally binding when the court makes a decision and enters a divorce decree.
Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
- Felony conviction
- Abandonment for at least one year
- Excessive cruelty
Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law recognizes four types of divorce; namely, a mutual consent divorce normally in part with family mediation services, a two–year separation divorce, a fault divorce, and a mental hospital divorce. The first two categories are no–fault divorces, since the plaintiff does not have to provide proof of fault.
A Mutual Consent Divorce
In a mutual consent divorce, the plaintiff simply needs to inform the court that the marriage is irreversibly broken. It is the simplest form of divorce, since both spouses agree that the marriage is over. Once the plaintiff files the complaint, the law provides for a 90–day waiting period, at the completion of which, both parties may file a sworn statement consenting to the divorce. The court then grants a divorce.
During the 90–day waiting period, both parties reserve the right to appoint lawyers to try to work out a settlement agreement concerning issues such as alimony, property settlement, support, and custody. The court may adopt the written separation agreement as an order of court; however, if both parties fail to reach an agreement on these issues, the judge may order a hearing and make a decision depending on the circumstances.
A Two Year Separation Divorce
Like a mutual consent divorce, a 2–year separation divorce is a type of no–fault divorce. If one spouse declines to sign a sworn statement consenting to the divorce, the other spouse may opt to live separately for two years, and then, sign an affidavit claiming that the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, separation does not mean the couple has to live in different homes; rather, separation may apply even when the couple lives in the same home, but interact very little with each other, and each spouse is living his or her own separate life.
The defendant must receive a copy of the affidavit, and if he or she fails to respond, the judge may grant the divorce. However, if the defendant chooses to file a counter–affidavit contesting the two–year separation or that the marriage is irreversibly broken; the court sets a hearing to decide whether to grant the divorce.
A Fault Divorce
Although very rare, the law still recognizes a fault divorce. In this type of divorce, the plaintiff must prove that he or she is innocent of any wrongdoing, and that the defendant is solely at fault. The main reasons why most people avoid filing a divorce on fault grounds are the expense, and the difficulty of proving innocence of wrongdoing.
Some of the legal grounds for a fault divorce are adultery, abandonment for a period exceeding one year, bigamy, cruelty, jail sentence exceeding two years, and indignities. The court may decline to grant divorce if both parties are at fault. A fault divorce may drag on for many years.
The law allows for divorce where one spouse has suffered a mental problem, and has been in a mental institution for at least eighteen months prior to the commencement of the divorce proceedings; and may likely remain in the institution for a further eighteen months after the start of the proceedings.
In theory, it may take couples who have lived separately for more than two years as little as forty days to get a divorce, and as little as ninety days for those separated for less than two years, provided that both parties consent to the divorce. However, the process may take a bit longer due to the paperwork. Spouses who are planning to get a divorce in Pennsylvania should seek legal counsel from a qualified family law lawyer in Pennsylvania.